Exclusive SXSWI Interview: Tim Langdell, Part Two

Gaming guru talks about where the industry is missing out.

(Part one of this interview is now online)

Something is making gaming innovator and SXSW:IA panelist Tim Langdell scratch his head. "The biggest selling-game ever was The Sims 1. The biggest selling game for women was The Sims 1. Why is that the games industry didn't pick up on this?"

Big as it is, Langdell (appearing today at 3.30pm in room 6 at the Austin Convention Center at Redrum in the Rue Morgue': Collaboration in International Communities) thinks gaming as a business is missing out. "It's a $100 billion industry that's underperforming," he said. The trick is guessing what will work, and the problem has been that the industry has as bad a track record of spotting the next big thing as any other industry.

Take MMOs. "if you'd have asked people in the mainstream game industry five years ago, they would have said that if you got 100,000 on Everquest, that's good going." That meant that investors were wary of sinking cash into them. When it came to Blizzard and the monster that is World of Warcraft, according to Langdell. they struck a deal to basically operate under the radar, and "were able to develop it as a really-high-end independent developer."

The same with Guitar Hero, which also broke the rules and changed them in one fell swoop: "The common wisdom was that no-one would spend extra on a special controller." (Langdell admits that he sucks at it. A self-described "not a bad guitarist," he argues being able to play on strings is a liability here. "It's air guitar, and I hear from a couple of friends of mine that are guitarists who say that it actually works against us.")

The biggest upsetter on 'how things should work' has been the Wii. The cutesy design and less-than-high-end graphics of Nintendo's machine with a name built for mockery seemed like "it would make their system Gamecube part two." But this time, Langdell argues, industry watchers should have had a better clue about its massive potential. "Part of that is accessibility. But what hasn't got as much press is that all the successful Wii games involve playing with two or more people."

And it's not just the how many, it's the who. While games like Gears of War max out the pool of traditional 'male 18-34' gamers, the too-cute Wii and party machines like Dance Dance Revolution are bringing in new gamers. "I'm hearing the highest reports I have ever seen in my twenty-so years of people saying this game brought our family together," said Langdell. "I'm hearing it cross-culturally as well: I have a friend in China, and the grandmother in the family is the star on Wii games, and her younger sister is the star of Guitar Hero."

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